Deutche Welle fires five Arab journalists over anti-Israel social media posts

Five Arab journalists from the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) have been fired for posting anti-Israel content on their personal social media and other outlets.

The employees – all Palestinian or Lebanese – were investigated after an article published by Sudduetche Zeitung last November “exposed” social media posts and articles they had written that allegedly expressed antisemitism and anti-Israeli views.

Basil al-Aridi, Murhaf Mahmoud, Maram Salem, Farah Maraqa, and Dawood Ibrahim were suspended in early December and were fired earlier this month.

An internal probe found that while there was no evidence of structural antisemitism at the media organisation, the journalists in question were guilty of antisemitism.

The inquiry was led by psychologist Ahmad Mansour – a Palestinian citizen of Israel who arrived in Germany in 2004. A self-professed expert on the “radicalisation” of Muslims, he is known for his staunch, pro-Israel views.

The inquiry’s report based its framework on the IHRA extended definition of antisemitism, as well as another definition of antisemitism called the 3D Test (double standards, de-legitimation, demonisation) which was developed by far-right Israeli politician Natan Sharansky.

Among other things, the some of the journalists were alleged to have said:

  • “Most of the stories of the Jews are questionable”
  • “If the compass points to Jerusalem and slaughters the usurpers, then I will not hesitate to be a follower of that compass.”
  • Jews “control people’s brains through art, media and music. Jews are only not good at sports, where real performance is what counts.”
  • “A Jew confessed: To build Germany, Hitler banned the bars and the culture of prostitution and homosexuality, which was dominated by the Jews. He forbade the banks from taking interest, which was also the work of the Jews.”
  • “Hitler did not want to destroy Germany like the Jews did with Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution was Jewish.”

The inquiry determined that the comments by the five DW employees clearly amounted to antisemitism, Holocaust denial or Holocaust relativism, as well as statements that denied Israel’s right to exist.

The journalists said they were not given a chance to read the inquiry or contest its findings.

Director General Limbourg said that DW will make significant changes at the broadcaster as a result of the probe.

“The management and I are truly sorry. The mere suspicion of antisemitism in a German, tax-funded institution must be intolerable for Jewish people in this country and around the world,” he said.

Limbourg added: “We must make our position much clearer in the future. Freedom of expression is never a justification for antisemitism, hatred of Israel and denial of the Holocaust.”

A further eight employees at DW’s Arabic service are currently under investigation.

‘An anti-Arab purge’

Last May, DW reportedly sent an internal two-page memo to employees banning them from using terminology such as “colonialism” and “apartheid” when describing Israel.

Farah Maraqa, a Palestinian Jordanian, has written about her experience on her Medium page – claiming that she was unable to explain or defend her articles in question while being attacked by some German media outlets.

She was accused of comparing Israel to a cancer in an article written in 2014 and of wanting to join ISIS in an article published the following year. Both statements, written in an ironic tone, were taken out of context, she said. “Being placed in the headlines without the ability to fight back … made me sick,” Maraqa wrote.

Meanwhile, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said they are seriously concerned that Deutsche Welle’s decision will open the door wide to escalating what is tantamount to an anti-Arab purge in German media.

Farah Maraqa

The human rights organisation said: “While the report criticizes DW as well as some of its employees and partners for alleged instances of one-sidedness, the report’s core recommendations and analysis basically aim to push DW towards embracing a one-sided pro-Israel narrative instead..

“After carefully reviewing the report, Euro-Med Monitor found several problems that challenge its findings, and concluded that the report’s framework, analysis, and recommendations contain multiple evidence of bias in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians.

“The report relies on a flawed framework by taking the contested and controversial expanded IHRA definition as its starting point in the evaluation and assessment process. In recent years, the IHRA definition has fallen under criticism of being weaponized to quash pro-Palestinian speech and equate legitimate criticism of Israeli actions and policies with anti-semitism.

“The investigation’s report further entails numerous Israeli talking points and makes the case for creating an even stronger pro-Israel bias in German media, as well as limiting the space for Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices…

“Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor cautions German media groups like DW against unfairly dismissing Arab journalists without giving them a fair chance to contest and challenge the report’s findings. We similarly warn DW against limiting pro-Palestinian speech and penalizing employees or partners for holding legitimate pro-Palestinian views and sympathies.”

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